No Money in Cobourg Budget for Beach Lifeguards This Summer

In City Hall, Local

By Jeff Gard/Today’s Northumberland

There will be no lifeguards at Cobourg’s Victoria Beach this summer as zero dollars have been allocated in the 2023 budget.

In addition, there was no debate on the issue when Director of Community Services Brian Geerts made a presentation to council on Jan. 26 (Closure of Centennial Pool, Removal of Beach Lifeguards Proposed in Cobourg Budget – Today’s Northumberland – Your Source For What’s Happening Locally and Beyond ( and also not last week during Tuesday’s portion of the budget review meeting.

No members of council raised any questions or concerns about the removal of lifeguards. Staff were challenged, though, during the budget process to find cost savings to keep the tax levy down. A majority of council did vote in favour of a hike in remuneration that will add $138,000 to the budget by 2024, though only $20,000 this year.

Director Geerts answered questions from Today’s Northumberland through e-mail to provide comments and information about the decision to remove beach lifeguards from the budget for this summer.

Geerts said the move results in a cost savings of $128,500. There’s currently no money in the 2024 and 2025 forecast as well, but the director noted council has the opportunity to re-evaluate every year.

Each year staff and council thoroughly review the budget, carefully evaluating unavoidable costs, service levels, impacts to operating due to capital projects, town growth and many other factors,” Geerts stated. “Community Services takes the budget through six distinct cycles of calculation and evaluation to bring a refined recommendation to council for consideration.”

Some years, increases to unavoidable costs lead to service reductions elsewhere, Geerts added.

Community Services provides a wide array of valuable services across the community, but many are discretionary. Lifeguards at the beach is one of those discretionary services,” he stated, noting that all other beach services will be maintained so members of the public continue to have a high-quality waterfront experience, mentioning sand grooming, garbage collection and beach volleyball.

Signs and marketing information will be updated so that the public is well-informed of the reduction in service. In previous years, the beach had lifeguards about 40-45 hours per week during peak swimming times. This is about 40 per cent of the daylight hours in the summer. The service level already had an unguarded beach for 60 per cent of the time.”

While the marketing materials will be updated, Geerts said crucial swim safety guidelines will continue to be communicated to the public as they have been: always ensure there is adult supervision when children are swimming; never leave a child alone near the water; know the water, weather and waves; don’t swimming; don’t swim while intoxicated and stay within your abilities.

There will be lifeguards at the nearby outdoor Centennial Pool, which as previously reported was added back into the budget for this year. YMCA Northumberland provides the town with lifeguards. It was mentioned at last Tuesday’s meeting that a memorandum of understanding between the town and YMCA, which includes operation of Centennial Pool and lifeguards for the beach, expires this September.

We look forward to updating this agreement and continuing the highly effective relationship with the YMCA,” Geerts stated.

Asked for statistics from the beach during the 2022 season, Geerts provided the following: Major Incidents (rescue assistance, serious medical) – 3; Minor Incidents (first aid) – 35; Potential Missing Persons – 48; and Public Relations – 3,742.

Starting in 2018, four new beach lifeguard stations were constructed at a cost of $12,000 each. It’s unknown at this time what will happen to those stations.

The stations are still in good condition, so we are looking to repurpose them, but it is too soon to know any details beyond that,” Geerts stated.

During Thursday’s meeting, while specifically speaking about Centennial Pool, Councillor Brian Darling took an opportunity to remind citizens that staff were doing their job trying to find a spot where they could save the town money.

I don’t like to see when the community throws staff under the bus because they’re doing their job,” Darling said. “These are hard decisions for staff to make, hard decisions for council to make and I think we should be fair to everybody out there.”

At the end of Thursday’s meeting, Cobourg council unanimously supported a motion to approve the 2023 Capital Budget in the amount of $32,998,716 and the 2023 Operating Budget with the Municipal Levy of $28,154,601 which represents a 8.1% increase over the 2022 Operating Budget and a 6.6% net increase after allowing for New Assessment Growth of 1.5%.

The budget requires final approval at the next regular council meeting Feb. 27.

Jeff Gard
Author: Jeff Gard

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